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The Old Country

by Mordicai Gerstein

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2005
130 pages
ISBN: 1596430478

Ages 10-14

In a tale for our time and all times, Mordicai Gerstein offers an entertaining, intriguing, and at times sobering story of a girl-turned-fox, a fox-turned-girl, and the chaos of war that makes the impossible, improbable, and unthinkable a reality. Gisella is a girl in The Old Country, a land that Gerstein has drawn from old Europe and folktales alike. Although she’s a smart girl, she’s not smart enough to outwit the fox who’s been stealing her family’s chickens. When she makes the mistake of looking too long into the fox’s eyes, he steals her body. The fox is now a girl, and Gisella is now a fox. Gisella’s determination to reclaim her own skin is thwarted by the war that has just begun in The Old Country. It is a war like all wars, with many innocents caught in the middle. The land is ravaged. Roads are crowded with refugees wandering in hopes of finding safety. By the time Gisella gets over the shock of being a fox, her family has fled, the sly fox—in her body—along with them. Over the course of weeks as she follows their trail, Gisella is witness to the havoc war creates. She must use her own wits and the fox’s agile body to stay alive. Among the novel’s funniest—and most somber—moments are legal trials that underscore the divide that has taken place between nature and humanity, in particular where man has been the cause of such devastation. For Gisella, however, that divide is no longer very clear. After weeks in the fox’s body, she’s not sure where it ends and she begins in a story that is hilarious, lyrical, and thought-provoking by turn.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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